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From a smaller jail, I am inside a bigger jail: Sudha Bharadwaj

She had been arrested in August 2018 for alleged links to Maoists

sudha bharadwaj pti Sudha Bharadwaj in 2018 | PTI

In an interview to BBC, activist Sudha Bharadwaj, who was imprisoned and later released in a case related to Bhima-Koregaon violence, spoke about her life inside her prison, and what she expects outside of it. "Jail conditions are no longer medieval. But the loss of dignity that you suffer the moment you go in comes as a shock," she said. Bharadwaj was released from the Byculla jail in Mumbai on Thursday, after spending over 1,000 days in incarceration. She had been granted default bail by the Bombay High Court on December 1. 

She had been arrested in August 2018 for alleged links to Maoists, who were accused of orchestrating the violence at Bhima-Koregaon in January that year. The plight of Bharadwaj and 15 other activists arrested in the case had been raised at various forums by human rights groups.

As the BBC reported, meals were made up of dal, two pieces of roti and vegetables; families were allowed to deposit a maximum of 4,500 rupees every month into their jail accounts, and the inmates rolled incense sticks, made mats and grew vegetables and paddy in a prison farm to earn some money.

Bharadwaj, 59, was born in the US, but renounced American citizenship when she turned 19. She is an IIT Kanpur alumnus. With her early schooling in Cambridge, UK, Bharadwaj was born in a family of academics. Leaving her teaching job in DPS, New Delhi, Bharadwaj came to Chhattisgarh in 1986 to work with legendary labour leader Shankar Guha Niyogi, who was murdered at the behest of a local industrialist.

She was granted default bail by the Bombay High Court on December 1. On Wednesday, she was produced before a NIA court in Mumbai to decide her bail conditions. The NIA court held that Bharadwaj be released on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 50,000 with one or more solvent sureties of the same amount. It also directed her to inform the NIA as well as the court about her place of residence, contact number and contact details of at least three blood relatives. The court directed her to attend proceedings of trial and ensure the trial not be protracted due to her absence. She was ordered not to make any statement regarding the proceedings. Bharadwaj was also instructed not to leave the city without the court's permission.

"From a smaller jail I am now living in a bigger jail, which is Mumbai," Sudha Bharadwaj, 60, told BBC.

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